Happy Fall Y’all

It’s Fall, but in Southern California that still means its 80 degree weather.  I’m not in the mood for baking and making soups yet, but some decor showed its colors as I was ready for some warm hues of orange and brown for a change.

When you live in a house that is 650 sf. you don’t have a ton of space to decorate, so I use every space possible and tiered trays are perfect.

This is a mix of old and new.  The lovely vintage lace was a recent find a local thrift store!  It was only $7 so I could splurge on buying all of the fresh pumpkins and artichokes!  The napkin is a new one and adds a bright pop of color against the beige.  The rusty orange crocheted pillow in the background on the couch, I made that.

The clock is a German made antique that my Grandfather picked up on a trip there (we think?)  It’s a good story, and I’m sticking to that.  It used to sit on a custom rock mantle in my Grandparent’s den.  It was something that I definitely remember seeing and not being allowed to touch it until I was much older.  I’m still honestly afraid to touch it now cause the glass dome is fragile and not easily replaced.

I’ve collected pine cones and small decorative acorns and items over the years.  I guess I’m a bit like a squirrel.

The geodes were a last minute add because I wanted some different texture and muted color.  The geodes are from my grandfather’s collection.  He was a hobby geologist.  He split and polished my treasured geodes, so I often use them throughout the house in different settings.

The unique coasters to the left of the geodes are polished petrified coral that I picked up at a craft fair on my last visit up North to see Lucas.  It was an odd find, but I knew I’d use them cause I liked the colors.

I also liked the size of the boxwood leaf bundles.  They were just the right amount of green and freshness to the fall display.

Happy Fall Y’All!  Happy decorating as we go into cooler temperatures and start backing and bundling up!  Have fun with some color and

What’s Weird About That?

I was recently at my parent’s house and we were deciding on dinner.  We settled on a Cabezas Family favorite of sauerkraut, kielbasa and white rice, comfort food that is indicative of my mixed heritage.  It sounds ridiculous but thinking of it makes me think of home.   It made me think that other families probably have meals like this that.  The kind of meal where items are all edible but do they actually go together?

I asked around to see what might have been traditional easy meals for other families.  I got all sorts of answers from Taco Bell to “Shit on a Shingle”.   At every point in my life, I’ve usually had some simple meal that I can whip up quickly or sometimes it was “pick up” quickly.  When I was a kid, we had several quick meals such as the sauerkraut, kielbasa and white rice…and on Fridays we sometimes went to McDonald’s.  Apparently I couldn’t say McDonald’s though and referred to it as BDonald’s (which my brother likes to remind me of so that I don’t forget this mispronunciation).

In college, Del Taco had Tuesday Taco nights.  The roommates and friends and I would pick up tons of these crispy tacos because they were also budget friendly at something like $.25 each.  Luckily my Dr. has confirmed that I have not hardened my arteries from such earlier abuse.

In my research, I found some odd family favorites out there.  My mom’s family had a recipe for Hungarian Goulash. We weren’t Hungarian and this particular dish didn’t seem like goulash but rather just a meat casserole.  It was the base for spaghetti sauce, meat noodley casserole…and a few others.  Very 1950’s American and not Hungarian in any way.

I spent some time with friends in Tennesee.  To this California kid, these items were kind of interesting, so brace yourself.  Killed Lettuce – pronounced “Kilt”.  This was lettuce, bacon, bacon grease or fatback grease and green onions.  (Fatback is the layer of fat under the skin of a pig…it’s denser than the fat found on the stomach and is usually used for flavoring) Some versions added radishes or chopped boiled eggs.   Maybe this was the inspiration the traditional spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing?

At the Spence’s house, Kilt Lettuce was popular but they had something called Rough Grub which would be pinto beans, fried potatoes, Sliced “maters” or tomatoes and cornbread (a savory version, See Cornbread Comfort)

The Wood Family would have 1.  pinto beans with spaghetti, 2. ketchup on French toast or 3. chili, cornbread and cole slaw.  I think I understand the chili, cornbread and cole slaw but I’m not sure about ketchup on French toast, but maybe that is an acquired taste?  I make no judgement, I’m just not quite sure which of those meals would be handled by stomach?

My coworker, Sue, told me all about her family favorite of “Shit on a Shingle”. This was a quick recipe that she would pull together for the family quickly and for some reason it got coined this descriptive and delightful name.
Shit on a Shingle Recipe (courtesy of Sue Wells)
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
4 – 5 medium potatoes, diced
2 cups of frozen peas and carrots
1 chicken bouillon
Cook all of the ingredients in a crockpot for 6 – 8 hours on low
season with salt and pepper to taste
add bay leaf, spices as desired

Make Pillsbury Grand biscuits per the container’s directions.
Pour the chicken mixture over the cooked biscuits (hence the Shit on a Shingle name)
Recipe feeds approximately 6 people.

“Shit on a Shingle” was also a family fave of the Giese Family but their version was a hash on toast, reach really does seem to illustrate the name well.

All of these families, including my own, have some pretty amazing meals outside of these featured items but it was certainly interesting gathering the information.   There’s not a bad cook in the bunch, but I think the quick ideas and  recipes show a slice of family life in America.

I’d truly love to know what other interesting food combinations and recipes that YOU have.  Share yours in the comments!

 

 

Pit Stop

Have no fear, I’m not walking around smelly.

I don’t know about you, but it’s hot.   I get it.  It’s Summer and it’s supposed to be hot, so I should stop complaining and seek refuge in air conditioning.   I’m happy to be at work these days where the air conditioning makes us feel like it’s Antartica!  And if I may be permitted to speak of the unmentionable… if you don’t have a proper coat of deodorant, you might be a bit “ripe” and stinky.

About a year ago, I went in search of the perfect deodorant.  before that I was experiencing a growing concern about my products that I use personally and in my home.  I started researching and testing several brands.  These notes are just my personal preference and I certainly don’t endorse or condone a product.  I find it is just what worked for me, so feel free to try or don’t try anything listed.

Like most people, I always used what works for me.  I used to buy Dove, Secret, whatever was in Target.  It was a means of staying fresh and I wasn’t concerned with the ingredients.  As I heard more and more about ingredients and toxins in deodorants, I went on a mission to find something that I could use that didn’t make me cringe.

I tried Toms of Maine, but realized that it’s not entirely organic and you need to read the label.  I went to my local Whole Foods and tried EO organic deodorant.  First of all, it was a spray and I found that I hated waiting for it to try while I flap my arms around.  I felt like a bird every morning with sticky armpits.  Then on top of that, it really didn’t keep me fresh all day.  In other words, I detected an odor by the afternoon and so I was done with that one.

Crystal Essence and Nubian heritage seemed appropriate for their contents but there again…it didn’t actually do a job of deodorizing me?  My friend actually gave me Piper Wei and it sort of worked but you have to scoop it out and rub it on your pits.  This was a bit cumbersome and messy.  It tended to crumble or get trapped under my fingernails.  Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy using this product.

I actually even tried making my own deodorant with baking soda and essential oils etc…I followed some recipe from my beloved Pinterest.  It didn’t work, so I won’t bother sharing it.  (wonk wonk)  It smelled nice but was truly useless for anything.  It was probably edible at least, but ew.

Have no fear, I’m not walking around smelly.  I have two deodorants that I have found to be perfect.  Native is a fun brand that you order online.  It has lots of great scents.  I usually order a seasonal package of 3 deodorants.  This will last me for a while until the next seasonal order.  My aunt found another easy product in case I don’t have time to order online.  Schmidt’s has a line of natural deodorant.  The ingredients all are pronounceable and I didn’t see any red flags with it.  She bought this at Costco and I have since found it at Target, so it seems that it’s readily available everywhere.

I don’t expect that you will all run out and get these products, but I encourage you to pay attention to your products that you use.  Feel free to share your favorites here cause you never know if it can help me or someone else!  Thanks everybody and stay cool this Summer!

Blame it on the Tapeworm

I recently took a European vacation with a couple of friends, Ria and Lucas, where we went to Ireland and London, with a 16 hour layover in Iceland.  We started out taking the easy route of eating in pubs for the first couple of days and then challenged ourselves to find food that we would not normally have at home.  We didn’t hold back and tried local fare as well as more unique choices like Ethiopian, Lebonese and Indian.

Our go-to excuse for the amount of food we were consuming was to blame it on the “Tapeworm” as well as document it for the food blog!  Thank goodness that I actually  write a blog.   I felt less guilty with an appropriate excuse in mind for our American gluttony and obnoxious pictures.  It was a culinary vacation that we all will never forget and hopefully each of our stomachs have adequately recovered from.
Below are a sampling of some of the meals that we had while we were traveling.

We didn’t eat these donuts, but I liked how they were appropriately iced for the Iceland consumer.  Go Dunkin Donuts Iceland!

This ham sandwich and crisps, as they called potato chips, was not an ideal lunch from this Irish pub but we were HANGRY and all three of us needed it immediately.  It was the only thing they had to eat, so we thankfully accepted it as our meal and tried to regain our happiness.

Dinner in Kilarney ended up being surprising.  My friend ordered shepherd’s pie which was very good and I ordered this beef and Guiness stew – very tasty and pretty typical food for Ireland.  It honestly reminded me of a stew that my mom would make called Piccadillio (pronounced Pick-a-deel-eo).  I’m not quite sure why we call it that?  No idea what language that is and if that is even the correct spelling?  In any case, it’s tasty and similar to this dish that I had on vacation even though we definitely didn’t cook it with Guiness. 

In London, our first night, we decided that we would try different foods – try to stay away from pub meals if we could.  Soooo, we went with Indian food as London is known for having some of the best Indian food (aside from India itself I’m sure).
We found a restaurant down the block from where we were staying.  It just happened to be hosting the Pakistan Achievement Awards.  It was some of the best Indian food that I’ve ever tasted and it had the bonus of being a fly on the wall for the prestigious #PAKawards2017.

Next day in London, we ventured to the Royal Botanical Gardens for Lucas’ birthday.  That night, he decided he wanted Ethiopian food.  Ria and I had experienced Ethiopian food but he had not.  It was going to be an adventure for all though because Ria and I had never ordered anything so we weren’t sure of what everything was?  Luckily the restaurant that we found had an amazing host, Ozzie, who guided us through the whole experience.  #1 Rule – no cell phones.  He engaged us in trivia questions and discussions through the evening which was delightful and such a departure from our normal meals.

Mint tea was a treat served in this beautiful teapot after dinner.  You can see the aftermath of the dessert that Ozzie brought for us.  Lemon and chocolate ice cream?  I think that is what it was?

Ria and Lucas had after dinner coffee.  It was an experience in and of itself.  They roast the beans and it is customary for guests to smell the beans before brewing.  It is a very strong coffee at first and then apparently after the 13th cup, it reduces its potency.  They are pretty small cups, but even so, I couldn’t imagine drinking cup after cup?  It’s also served with popcorn.  We were not hungry in the slightest after eating a pile of food, but for some reason…when popcorn is in sight, its impossible to not eat it?!

I think we actually went back to a pub for lunch the next day?  We had some pretty traditional pub items – fish & chips, shepherd’s pie and basically ham and eggs.  I can’t remember what this was called, but it would have been something that old locals would eat.  Peas and chips (steak fries as we call them) with everything!  We consumed a lot of chips on this trip.

One of the days in London, we went to tea at Harrod’s.  We quickly realized that this was the only thing that we could afford to do at Harrod’s.  None of us are designer shoppers but we managed to have a great time at tea, then got lost in the high ticket “Superbrands” area when we were trying to exit.  Superbrands are Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci – the non ready to wear type area, very custom and elite.  People were shopping in these boutiques, so good for them!  My pocket book deflated in horror as we sheepishly found our way through.

Lebonese was on the menu for dinner next.  We sat down, looked at a menu and quickly got overwhelmed.  We told the waiter that we weren’t sure what to order.  He took our menus away and said leave it to him.  We had plates of falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, chicken, beef and lamb, olives, tabouleh, rice, what else have I forgotten?  It was delicious and unexpected.  I wasn’t quite sure what Lebonese food was except Ria had said it was Mediterranean basically.  This restaurant knew what they were doing!  We gorged ourselves and also had dessert, tea and coffee then rolled ourselves home somehow.

Each morning in London, we had a habit of stopping at our favorite, Pret A Manger.  It’s a ready to grab food mart where we could get coffee and tea and treats to start our day.  We were definitely the Americans in the store as each one of us had at least 2 or 3 items + our coffee or tea.  I observed most people grabbed their coffee/tea and maybe 1 food item.  We consistently had 2 trays of food and drink!  Breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, chia pudding, croissants, muffins, cookies…you name it, we tried it!  We’d be quite pleased and plump if Pret A Manger was at home.

This tea place in Ireland was called The Queen of Hearts and it certainly won my heart.  It was quaint and had a really great scone.  It had a couple of locations and both were quite busy.  (I managed to leave my camera at this spot and Lucas thankfully picked it up.  I think it might have taken me most of the day to figure out that it was even missing though?  This blog might not have existed or some lucky tea drinker after me would have had a 1000 picture documentation of our trip!)

The trip overall was amazing and I’m amazed that we all ate as much as we did!  The pics that I shared here are just a smattering of the meals that we had over the course of 2 weeks.  We ranked our favorites and I think we all agree that the Lebonese meal in London was the best.  We weren’t expecting the flavors and it was a royal banquet (appropriate, as this restaurant had catered for the queen).

Hope you get a chance to take a trip sometime soon.  When you do, I highly recommend stepping outside your tastebuds and trying as much as your stomach will allow!

Cheers to Summer!

Don’t think that drink umbrellas are not useable for anything but summer cocktails!  Go ahead and use them for winter cocktails too, of course!  My latest project requires a whole lot of drink umbrellas so either drink up or go and purchase a box at Smart & Final like I did.

Supplies:  1 foam wreath, about 50 drink umbrellas, ribbon of choice, scissors

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I started by just poking umbrellas into the foam.  I realized that they needed to be cut down to fit the foam better.

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At first, I started placing in one section and worked around the circle.

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I then realized to get the spacing more even, it would be good to place spacer umbrellas all around the circle and then fill in the gaps.

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You could add a bit of glue to each umbrella before placing in the foam.  I didn’t add the glue for this one though.

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To dress it up a bit more, I decided to add a bow.  Simple bow, loops, tied together.  A drink umbrella stuck through the middle loop and into the foam secured the bow in place.

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The whole project took about 40 mins. It cost about $10 total as well.  Hope it adds some color and fun for Summer to your porch.

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Let me know if you make one!  I’d also be curious how you managed to get all of your drink umbrellas too!

For the Birds

I recently took a trip up to Northern California to visit my friend Lucas.  He lives in a small town called Tailorsville in Northern California with 150 people.  I think he makes it a booming 151 people now?  He was a Southern California guy who decided to change his lifestyle.  He says he’s learned to appreciate a slower, less traffic world and I don’t blame him for that one bit.  It is a lovely place to visit and I always enjoy catching up with Lucas.

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For this trip we had no plans mapped out so it was relaxing and creative.  Lucas had made bird feeders out of thrift store dishes and he wanted to add to them.  We had to travel 15 mins to the next town to go to the thrift store in Greenville.  Everybody knows everyone everywhere and since Lucas is a 6’3″ red head, he’s not easily forgotten.  We enter the store to welcome greetings from townsfolk and proceed to buy half of their dish supply.  One of the retired gentleman rung our purchases up and did some quick calculations that I didn’t quite follow and came to an amount that would have been about $.10 a piece I think?  We happily made a little larger donation and packed up our bird feeder treasures.

We glued a bunch of dishes together with E6000 glue.  It definitely should be used in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors.  Try to be neat but apply a generous amount.  Use removable tape as needed to secure pieces while drying.  Let dry for 24 to 48 hours.  (The E6000 with the black cap is clear glue, the white cap is white glue.  The white glue does not dry clear so only use on white dishes unless you prefer the look of toothpaste binding your bird feeders together?!)

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You just need to be creative about how you want to make your dish bird feeders and it will be determined by what you find at your local thrift store or if you happen to have odds and end pieces hanging around your house.

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Once you have bird feeders, you can fill them with appropriate bird seeds.  Lucas did some research for a mix of seeds and dried worms (yuck!) that would attract blue jays and various birds in his area.IMG_0386

We made a birdseed cake kind of mixture with lard, cornmeal and lots of bird seed fixins.  It’s simple, melt the lard, then add ingredients to create a pretty thick paste.

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You can then spoon in the mixture into your feeders and let it dry and harden so the seeds aren’t falling out of the containers if they are hung from cup handles. The spoon handles of these feeders act as a ledge when it’s hanging from the handle that the bird can sit on while the eat the seed.

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The mix of dish bird feeders are so cute in the large tree at his house.  The birds seem to love the food especially since it was still winter and they got quite a bit of rain and snow this season.

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Lucas hung most of the bird feeders with old belts from the thrift store which added to eclectic country charm in the back yard.  I made a couple for my bungalow porch as well.  It was a really easy project.  I’ve seen them made with spoons for hooks and more complicated combinations of dishes but I like our simple and effective feeders.  The birds do too as the dishes run out of food quickly!  It’s always sign of a good restaurant even if it is for the birds!

Better Than Cereal Crepes

I’m fortunate to have wonderful friends that are like family to me.  I’ve known Erin since we were about 11 or 12, which is the same age that her daughter is now.  We know each other so well because we grew up together and ended up being college roommates so she is the closest thing that I have to a sister.  Luckily, we also only live about 20 minutes away now and in California that’s like being neighbors!

On most Sundays, I head over to Erin’s to go for a walk, grab brunch and chat about the past events of our week and upcoming mayhem planned for the coming week.  This particular Sunday, I came over and Erin was casually making crepes for her daughter and her two BFFs. Crepes are traditional breakfast for the kids if they have a slumber party the night before.  She said, “let me just whip up some crepes.” It was such a nonchalant statement.  Whip up some crepes?!  I always had in my head that crepes were terribly time consuming and took skill.  I was honestly a little afraid of them.  Erin happily convinced me otherwise and added “They’re better than cereal!”  No argument there!

A few years ago, she said she went in search of a recipe because she felt like eating crepes.  She tried Julia Child’s cause, don’t you have to?  For anybody that sews, we determined Julia Child was like following a dificile Vogue pattern as opposed to a Betty Crocker recipe which would be the easy McCall’s pattern. Needless to say, Betty Crocker became her go-to crepe recipe.  (Note to self: definitely have a go-to crepe recipe in your life!).

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As Erin proceeded to get her mothers’ inherited Betty Crocker book out, I continued to doubt that this crepe making process would be easy.  She proved me wrong!  It was easy and fun!

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Ingredients

1.5 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

2 eggs

2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Erin followed the directions pretty closely, mixed flour, sugar, baking powder and salt then in her mixer added milk, eggs, butter and vanilla.  It was very similar to making pancakes but this has a much more liquid consistency.  (Similar to buttermilk or even a little thicker.)

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She used a non-stick skillet, which I would highly recommend.  You should still grease the pan either with butter as Betty Crocker does or with any oil of your choice.  You need to grease in between each crepe.  Erin poured about 1/2 cup of crepe batter into the pan, then swirled the pan until the batter thinly covered the bottom of the pan.

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Let the crepe completely dry on the surface.  You’re using about a medium to low flame on the stove.  Use a spatula to loosen the edges of the crepe all the way around.  Flip the crepe once it is lightly golden on the edges.

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You can also try flipping it in the pan with a quick wrist motion!  Have a dog around for any failed attempts!

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This recipe made about 20 crepes.  The girls filled them with Nutella and bananas but you can fill them anyway you like.

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In the end, there was plenty for everyone!

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Vintage Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I made these cotton flour sack dish towels a few years ago for my aunt and my mom.  I kept one for myself too cause it was too cute not to!

Supplies Needed
I chose remnants of 5 different coordinating fabrics and one solid.
one cotton flour sack
embroidery needle and thread in color of your choice
light weight fusible web
iron
scissors

I cut a 4 1/2″ for a border for two edges.  I used the iron to fold it over and also tuck all edges.  It was easiest to iron it and then pin it to the fabric.  I thoroughly pinned it to the edge so that it wouldn’t shift or move.  I then did a blanket stitch around all of the open edges making sure that I incorporated the front of the fabric to the back of the piece evenly.

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I lightly ironed 4 coordinating fabrics to squares of the light weight fusible web material just to tack the material together.  I then cut 3 different sizes of hearts of the fabric and fusible web.  I also did the same for the solid red, cutting five small hearts.

Then iron the hearts to the cotton flour sack in the design that is appealing to you.  I used a pink thread to tightly stitch a blanket stitch around each heart.

Each year, I break it out as a table covering rather than use it for a kitchen towel.  It’s a Valentine’s favorite!  Hope you make some of your own.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Do You Carrot for Glazes?

What made the carrot blush?

He saw the salad dressing!   Hahahaha

I’ve been on a carrot kick lately.  I was at my parents and cooking dinner this week.  We typically like a protein and some veggies so I made a simple chicken and tried a maple glazed carrot.  We also have to make white rice for dad cause it’s not a meal for him without it.  It all sounds simple but I made a few things more complicated, not on purpose.

First of all, I preheated the oven but forgot to take the stored pots out of the oven first!  We unfortunately don’t have a large mansion so a few pans get stored in the oven.  Luckily nothing was damaged or melted.  I got the chicken in the oven after mom and I took the pots out and cooled everything down.

I’m experimenting with carrot dishes because I’m actually working on a menu for Easter.  It sounds good to have a glazed carrot but each time I’ve made them, I’m not wowed by them.  I’ve tried brown sugar glazed, maple syrup glazed and a brown butter glaze.  They’ve all tasted fine but nothing was extraordinary.

I’ve decided that there’s nothing wrong with any of the recipes but they need finishing by roasting and letting the glaze carmelize more before serving.

Try your own recipe or use this or a variation:

2 lbs of carrots

1/2 cup of butter

1/2 cup of brown sugar

you can also add about a tsp. of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

First, I put about an inch of water in a skillet and bring to a boil.  Add the carrots and cook for about 3 minutes or watch and cook to desired tenderness of your carrot.  Drain the water once the carrots are cooked.  Put the cooked carrots aside.

In the same skillet, melt the butter, brown sugar and spice (if you choose) over a medium heat.  Heat until it becomes a bit thicker and bubbly.  Add the carrots.

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At this point, I plan to put the skillet in the oven and roast for a few minutes.  There was nothing wrong with the dish without roasting, I just want a richer, darker, thicker glaze and dimension of flavor to the carrots.  I think it’s worth a try.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If I don’t like it, I’m returning to basic carrots sautéed in butter and salt.  For now, I’m not going to carrot all!

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A Lentil Bit Wiser

I’ve had a winter hiatus from the blog.  For those of you that know me, know that I’m a marketing manager at a shopping center and that I can’t seem to handle much more than work, sleep and eat during November and December.  This season was incredibly busy.  I have missed cooking, crafting and experimenting so it’s time to get back to DelishTish!  I have lots of fun planned for this year, so hope you read and subscribe to the blog.

A Lentil Bit Wiser

I think lentils are always a smart choice to cook in a dish. They are a great fiber choice, good for your heart and they give you energy!  All are wonderful traits in a food except how do you make a brown or green variety lentil look appetizing?  You definitely have to add a bunch of other ingredients!

Several years ago, I entertained being a vegetarian. When I told my Filipino dad who I learned a lot of cooking from, his answer to vegetarian cooking was to add more vegetables to his regular meat dishes.  It was reminiscent of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Aunt Voula learns Ian Miller is vegetarian.  She says, “It’s OK!  I make lamb.”  I appreciated the sentiment of dad at the time but I had to do some research on my own to find dishes that I could embrace a meatless lifestyle.  My research took me to a lentil shepherd’s pie.

This recipe is adapted from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson, pg. 123.

I found that this recipe was great in the crockpot or my dutch oven on the stovetop did the trick too.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped onions (about one large onion)
4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp salt ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 ½ cups brown or green lentils, rinsed
1 can course chopped tomatoes, including juice
2 cups vegetable stock

Topping
The recipe calls for 4 cups of mashed potatoes but I tend to use about 2 cups and just add a thin layer, about 1/2” thick covering. ½ cup of bread crumbs 1 or ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

To start, I chop and prep everything so that when I get to put it all together I can pretend I’m on a cooking show!

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In an effort to use one pot, I did everything in my dutch oven.  If you use your crock pot as the recipe intended, you would use a large skillet through boiling ingredients then transfer to your crockpot.

Heat the oil and saute, on medium flame, your onions, celery and carrots until they are soft. Add the garlic and spices (salt, thyme and peppercorns).  Let that simmer to incorporate these flavors for a minute or two.

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Next add the tomatoes with the juice and add your rinsed lentils. Bring the whole thing to a boil.  Add the vegetable stock, cover and put on a low flame.  Let the dish cook for two to three hours.  Add water or vegetable stock if it starts to dry out.

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In my experience for this dish, you can make any kind of mashed potatoes that you prefer – garlic mash, cheesy mash, creamy or chunky, it’s all good. Even cauliflower mash works but this can be watery, so be careful to drain and add just a little milk or butter at a time.

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To make basic mashed potatoes, I peeled, coarsely chopped three russet potatoes. Cover them with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for about five to ten minutes.  I tend to poke them with a fork to know when they are done and soft to mash.  I drain them, add about ¼ cup sour cream and ¼ milk.  I use a hand mash tool and add the ingredients slowly so that they are thick and creamy consistency.  You may need to add more milk or sour cream to work towards a creamier texture.

For the crockpot, you can cover your lentils with this potato mash and cook for seven to eight hours on low.

For the dutch oven, I transfer the lentils that I’ve cooked on the stovetop to a casserole dish, cover with potatoes, sprinkle bread crumbs and cheese then back at 400 degrees for about 30 mins. Baking in the oven gives the topping a nice crust that doesn’t happen in the crockpot version.

This is a really adaptable meal to fit your tastes and comfort level of cooking. And….when you’re not feeling vegetarian you can add chicken or ground beef.

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This meal also freezes well or is a great dish to make ahead. You can prep the lentils on one day and then add the topping and bake on the next day for your gathering.

Even though I am not a vegetarian today, I can still have a meatless Monday or become a lentil bit wiser with an occasional vegetarian meal. This is a great one to save for yourself all week long or to enjoy with a group of family and friends.

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